Jawbox - For Your Own Special Sweetheart (Cover Artwork)


For Your Own Special Sweetheart (1994)


Undoubtedly entering their recording session with Ted Buckley with a great deal to prove, primarily from being Dischord Records' first act to jump ship to the majors, Jawbox came back with For Your Own Special Sweetheart, in turn delivering their strongest album, of which continues to influence bands to this day.

I am going to forgo the standard "I was surprised to see that this review wasn't on this site" intro, and the general biography of the band has already been included in my review of the Jawbox tribute. So I'll just delve right into the music. I think this album in conjunction with their second major label album Jawbox marks the pinnacle of their sound. For those uninitiated with Jawbox's music, they were a `90s post-punk band who took influence from several luminaries of the genre, such as Gang of Four, Mission of Burma, the Minutemen, and Big Black as well as fellow D.C. natives and former label-mates Fugazi. They were never ones to wear their influences on their sleeve however, creating their own unique hybrid of them instead. All of this was complimented with an additional sense of melody and their knack for writing a catchy chorus, which was doubtlessly important in helping them land that oh so controversial Atlantic recording contract. All this was anchored with the tenor of lead singer / guitarist J. Robbins, which ranged from soothing singing to a brash yell to a spoken word style. At times, this was also complimented with an inter-song vocal trade-off with guitarist / backup vocalist W.C. Barbot and at times having Barbot at the helm himself.

What was able to put this album above their rest was the ability to successfully mix angularity with melody without it seeming contrived or forced. Tracks like "LS/MFT" successfully display this with a catchy chorus smoothly integrated amongst dueling angular riffing. Some tracks find the band exploring one side of the dynamic more than the other, with starting track "FF=66" having little interjections of melody and tracks like "Savory" finding a place on alternative radio and MTV. Some additional highlights also include "Cooling Card," a medium-paced, more melodic track which keeps the flow of the album well. The album closes out with "Whitney Walks," a slow, more bass-oriented track which works well into easing the listener to the end of the album.

Various tracks on the album show J.'s borderline stream of consciousness style, which while slightly disjointed, never seems absurd or completely unable to be followed. Examples like "Falling down / Aging in place" from "U-Trau" which may seem slightly odd at face value, make perfect sense within the context of the song, a feat which many who attempt a similar style can't accomplish.

Still, I don't believe this is simply a really good album, but one that will continue to be held in high esteem, as well as serve as a benchmark for even more years to come. Due to all of this, it's very fair to say that with this album Jawbox not only made their mark on the musical landscape but were also able to easily cement their place in music history.